TRAINING CAMP COVERAGE: Includes video interviews with Martin Jones, Mathieu Garon (pro tryout), Anze Kopitar, Matt Frattin, Jarret Stoll, and Darryl Sutter.
EL SEGUNDO, CA — All summer long, Los Angeles Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi (and Vice President/Hockey Operations and Legal Affairs Jeff Solomon) were kept busy trying to get all of their restricted free agents (RFA) signed to new contracts. But for an unusually long time, one of their RFA’s, one who has not played in the National Hockey League, remained unsigned, generating whispers that he was in the midst of a contract dispute, and could be a training camp holdout.
That young player was goaltender prospect Martin Jones, who was noticeably absent from the Kings’ 2013 Rookie Camp, generating even more concern that he was a holdout.
But on September 9, Jones was present (in street clothes) at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, California, the team’s practice facility, during the rookie game held that night against the Anaheim Ducks.
Jones’ presence was a sure sign that getting his signature on a contract was imminent, and sure enough, the next day, he signed a two-year contract, worth $550,000 per season at the NHL level. The two-way deal would pay him $65,000 this season, and $85,000 next season, at the American Hockey League level.
For those asking why he held out for so long, Lombardi has some news for you.
“He didn’t holdout,” Lombardi emphasized during an exclusive interview with Frozen Royalty. “He was never going to Rookie Camp. If he didn’t show up today [September 11], he’s a holdout. He’s not a holdout until he’s supposed to be here. I don’t know where that holdout thing came from. How can you holdout when your reporting day is today, and he was here [two days ago]?”
“I told people who asked me that [his contract will] get done,” Lombardi added. “It was like any other contract, it [went] down to the last minute. But there was no doubt in my mind that he was going to be here.”
“He wasn’t going to be at the Rookie Camp. He’s beyond that, at this stage in his career.”
When asked if he had been holding out for a better deal, Jones said, “No, that wasn’t the case. It took a little longer, maybe, but that’s the way these things go. I was 100 percent confident that I was going to be playing somewhere in the LA Kings organization this year.”
Multiple sources have indicated that Jones’ agent was seeking a one-year contract, rather than the two years the Kings wanted. But with virtually no leverage, Jones had little choice but to sign the two-year deal.
“We’re getting ready to play another season,” said Jones. “I try not to worry about that kind of stuff too much, but I was confident the whole time that something was going to get done, for sure.”
“That’s the kind of stuff that I try not to concern myself with,” added Jones. “My agent takes care of that stuff, and my focus in the summer is to train hard, and get prepared for the season.”
Lombardi elaborated on the negotiations with Jones’ agent.
“It’s just part of the process,” he explained. “You’ve just got to have patience, and not take it personally. There was never a threat of a holdout. His agent never said, ‘if I don’t get this, [he’s] not coming,’ or anything like that.”
“This is not unusual in today’s game,” he added. “I wouldn’t have been happy if he wasn’t here, because this is a critical stage in his career. He’s got to continue to develop, and he needs to be here. But I never doubted that he’d be here.”
Indeed, Jones reported a couple of days before training camp was scheduled to begin, and after the first day on the ice on September 12, he indicated that he intends to push hard to make the big club’s roster after spending the off-season in an intense training regimen.
“A lot of his [strength and conditioning work] was this summer, putting in the work off the ice, trying to get physically ready to play in the NHL,” Jones noted. “It’s a big jump, [but] that’s definitely where I want to be. [I want] to push to be in the NHL this year, so that was the biggest thing for me, this summer—getting physically prepared.”
Jones’ lofty goal is admirable, but unrealistic, with Jonathan Quick, Ben Scrivens and maybe even Mathieu Garon, who is in the Kings’ training camp on a professional tryout agreement, ahead of him on the depth chart—he is a virtual lock to start the season back with the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs.
But that hasn’t fazed Jones.
“It doesn’t matter who’s here,” he stressed. “I’m trying to get prepared to make a push to play in the NHL. It doesn’t matter who’s around. That’s been my goal since I’ve been coming to these training camps—to make the team. Nothing really changes for me.”
That includes his focus on what he needs to improve upon.
“If I stick with what I’ve been doing—a lot of the fundamental stuff is there,” he noted. “It’s just taking that next step, attention to detail, proving that I can play in the NHL.”
“There’s nothing drastic,” he added. “I just have to keep playing, and playing well. It’s not a lot of big, fundamental changes. It’s getting prepared to make the jump to the higher pace and speed. Everyone’s a little bit quicker, and your mistakes are magnified. It’s just a lot of little things, and I do want to make that jump, so I’ve really got to focus on those.”
Frozen Royalty’s Martin Jones Coverage
- LA Kings Goalie Prospect Martin Jones Is Making Progress In Spite Of Tough Season With Manchester
- 2012-13 Will Be A Big Test For Los Angeles Kings Goaltender Prospect Martin Jones
- Down On The Farm With The Manchester Monarchs: Zatkoff Having An All-Star Season In Goal, While Jones Takes Small Step Backwards
2013 Training Camp Video Interviews – September 12, 2013, via FrozenRoyaltyNHL on YouTube
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